Three Lions versus Spain should deliver goals
Bookies William Hill rate England as 9/5 chances to beat Spain 5/4 in Gothenburg in Thursday's Under-21 European Championships match.
The young Three Lions made fairly heavy work of beating Finland 2-1 on Monday - thanks in part to Michael Mancienne’s sending off after just 33 minutes - and will need to raise their game if they are to beat the Spanish who drew 0-0 with Germany in their opening fixture.
That’s a view backed up by manager Pearce who confessed his side looked a long way from being contenders to win the 2009 Under-21 European Championships.
"What we need to show is more ability. That performance, for this standard of team, wasn't good enough," he said of Monday’s effort and asked if his side was good enough win the Championships he replied: "We’re a million miles away from it."
Those comments might well dissuade outright backers of the Three Lions (3/1 Outright Odds) but the former tough-tackling full-back can be a hard taskmaster at times and it would be no surprise to see his players respond with a tip-top effort on Thursday.
With players like Theo Walcott (8/1 First Scorer), Gabriel Agbonlahor (7/4 Anytime Scorer), Micah Richards (8/1 Anytime Scorer) and James Milner (10/1 First Scorer) at his disposal Pearce has arguably the best collection of individuals in the event.
But can he harness them into a team? We’ve not quite seen enough evidence to go all guns blazing at those outright win odds just yet. But the win over Finland does leave England on top of Group B.
Richards, who grabbed the winner against the Finns, is 25/1 to score the Last Goal against Spain.
Juan Ramón López Caro's talented Spain side declared themselves reasonably satisfied with their opening 0-0 draw with the Germans in what was a nervy, physical game in Gothenburg.
And on the eve of this clash Getafe CF midfielder Esteban Granero said that now his side have got their first game out of their system the England match will be more of a football spectacle.
"Thursday will be more like a final for us and will go a long way towards deciding whether we qualify or not, the game shouldn’t be as physical as the Germany one and both sides have some great players," he said.
With a more open game in mind Hills’ correct score market that quotes a 2-2 draw at odds of 14/1 looks a tempter.
The Spanish, who breezed through their Under-21 European Championships qualification campaign with a 100% record, are looking to bag their first trophy since 1998.
It’s been some year for Spanish football with the senior side landing the 2008 European Championships and Barcelona winning the 2009 Champions League.
Glory in Sweden this summer would complete a remarkable hat-trick.